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BeerCity USA poll retires, served its purpose

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For five consecutive years I presented the BeerCity USA poll here in this column. Usually, in March plans for the poll began its rev-up for the May balloting. Results coincided with American Craft Beer Week. But there will be no more BeerCity USA poll. I am retiring the BeerCity USA poll because it has served its purpose.

In 2009 when I came up with the idea of a BeerCity USA it was in reaction to all the numerical statistics that were defining the craft brewing world. Statistics for productions volume, number of breweries, per capita consumption, percentage growth, number of startups, number of failures, hypothetical statistical trend projections, etc. I thought of the quote from Aaron Levenstein (former Business Professor), “Statistics are like bikinis: what they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital”

The point I thought was missing was a measure of community support for craft brewers and the spirit of community they were helping to build. This in my opinion was essential and fundamental to the success of small and independent brewers in America, but no one was really giving craft brewery enthusiasts and beer drinkers any credit for the unparalleled growth and success of America’s craft brewers. Their role in the equation for success and revolution was sorely missing from the “statistics” that were defining the beer phenomenon sweeping this country.

It was quite obvious from the 156,000 votes cast from 2009 to 2013 that beer mattered. But a mobilization of many beer communities happened in ways never before observed. It wasn’t just about the beer but about the community spirit behind the craft brewing movement.

The BeerCity USA poll turned out to represent exactly what I was hoping to reveal; about the essence of the American craft beer phenomenon we were all experiencing. It’s about Main Street, grass roots, community support, not mainstream data and statistics. It’s very different than other polls that rate beer on viral popularity, hops, brand presence, sales, size of brewery, volume produced, ingredients used, and preference polls.

In 2011 I wrote something that sums it all up:

A lot of beer commentators and analysts are wondering when the “small craft brewers and their craft beer” phenomenon is going to end. They’ve been asking this question for the past 30 years. What many fail to realize is that the foundation of craft brewing and enthusiasm for craft beer is unlike the infrastructure driving traditional commodities and business development.

Craft beer from small brewers is not a commodity. Its popularity is generated by an engagement of both people and communities and a fundamental attitude that has finally gained enough momentum that more people are paying attention.

America “gets it.” They understand the cultural and societal impact that small business, small and independent craft brewers are having in their communities. Economic impact studies neatly and accurately sum up what’s happening with numbers and statistics. But the BeerCity USA can rest in peace knowing that 156,000 ballots cast helped bring attention to the unmeasurable spirit that is fundamental to the ongoing success of America’s craft brewers.

The BeerCity USA top cities 2009-2013 were:

  • 2009 Tie: Portland, Oregon and Asheville, North Carolina
  • 2010: Asheville, North Carolina
  • 2011: Asheville, North Carolina
  • 2012: Tie: Asheville, North Carolina and Grand Rapids, Michigan
  • 2013: Grand Rapids, Michigan
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